We gained great affection for the scrappers in the local chapter of the national organization known as ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) this year when they started getting more uppity in their efforts for various causes. We were especially impressed on a cold, rainy day back in April, when about sixty of them staged a protest outside the home of Missouri Gas Energy President Jim Oglesby (he lives in a rich Lee's Summit neighborhood) to complain about the company's lack of flexibility in helping poor people pay for their heating bills. In May, they took over Republican Sen. Jim Talent's Kansas City offices to demand additional funding for the federal No Child Left Behind Act; they also marched for more police protection in an east-side neighborhood. Then, in June, two of them were arrested in front of a Jackson-Hewitt office at the Linwood Shopping Center, where they'd been demonstrating against the tax preparer's fondness for high-interest refund-anticipation loans that shake down low-income taxpayers. Over the summer, ACORN submitted petitions demanding that City Hall put a living-wage initiative on the November ballot; under that ordinance, companies that do big business with the city would have been required to pay employees doing work for the city $9.79 an hour with health insurance (or $11.29 an hour without health insurance). The measure didn't make it out of a City Council committee, but even when ACORN's efforts don't succeed, it's fun as hell to watch them go to the mat for average people everywhere.